AUCKLAND: Favourites to win on the pitch, the New Zealand All Blacks are already winners off it, as research shows their brand value has doubled since they won the 2011 Rugby World Cup and they have twice as many social media followers as any other team.

According to Brand Finance, the New Zealand Rugby Union's brand value now stands at US$124m, a figure that will increase further if they retain the trophy.

"We've got ambitions to sell more licensed products and be a better-known brand," Steve Tew, chief executive officer of New Zealand Rugby, told Bloomberg. "It's only going to work as long as you keep performing," he added.

With nineteen sponsors – including diverse brands such as insurance group AIG, airline Air New Zealand, jewellery brand Bulgari and sports giant Adidas – the All Blacks have leveraged their champion status by rapidly expanding their licensing partnerships. The brand of rugby's most famous team can now be seen on flight safety videos, cologne and Rugby World Cup branded bottles of milk among many others.

Fans are also drawn to the team on social networking sites. RadiumOne calculated each team's total audience across leading global social networks Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Google+ and found that, with 4.52m followers, New Zealand had twice as many as England (2.26m) and three times as many as South Africa.

"Former England coach, Sir Clive Woodward recently said social media was the teams' 'new enemy' in terms of squad harmony, but engaging the fan community socially is a hugely powerful 'sixteenth man' for any team and the brands supporting them," said Rupert Staines, RadiumOne's European MD.

He added that the team punching most above its weight in social media compared to its world ranking is the USA – ranked 16th in the world on the pitch but 7th in social media. 

"Every tournament has a dark horse and this time it's the USA – the home of social media – who've been making strong use of social platforms to engage with fans," he said.

Data sourced from Bloomberg, RadiumOne; additional content by Warc staff